Keeping Active as a Senior in Mind and Body
Sometimes, it’s much easier to just veg out on the couch with a cup of your favorite tea and an easy to read, lots of pictures, magazine. So, that’s just what I’m going to do until, I turn the page, and lo and behold, there’s a stunning 60 something woman all tangled up in some type of yoga pose. I stare at that picture wondering, how does she do it and then I feel it…the guilt! It creeps up the back of my legs and into my derriere planted comfortably on the couch. I should be that woman in the magazine, I think to myself. What time was my yoga class again? Ugh…
We all know how important it is to keep active as a ‘senior’ as well as for all human beings. So, as we slide “down” that slippery slope of life, we realize how majorly important it is. Study after study has shown being sedentary is detrimental to your health. We need our strength now more than ever to remain independent and disease free. It is also important to keep our muscles toned, flexible, and limber to reduce the risk of injury. As they say, we need to get the blood pumping.
Does this mean I have to join a gym and squeeze into one of those Sweaty Betty fitness outfits? Not at all! There are so many things we seniors can do and believe it or not, they’re fun. I like to think being active as a senior should be twofold: physical and mental. Both sets of activities contribute to a healthier lifestyle and enable us to enjoy each day.
Let’s talk about physical activities, what they entail, benefits and some examples.
Cardio is any activity that increases heart rate, getting your blood flowing. A good sign you’re doing cardio correctly is if the exercise makes you sweat and leaves you a little bit breathless. Great cardio exercises to try are:
- Walking or light jogging
- Water aerobics or other water classes or exercise
Balance training is important not just because it keeps your muscles limber and flexible, but because for seniors, it helps prevent falls, which are a leading cause of hospitalizations in the elderly population. Also, balance and weight training have been shown to improve cognitive function as well. Some good exercises to try:
- Frequent stretching
- Tai chi
Strength training: You don’t need to become Mr. Universe, but improving your strength will make everyday chores and activities easier, plus it helps bone density. Boost muscle strength using:
- Elastic resistance bands
- Light free weights or dumbbells
- Weight machines
- Using your own bodyweight along at home for resistance
Let’s face it, not all of us are on the athletic side so, the list should also include: gardening, cleaning house, playing with grandkids, and of course…SHOPPING!
Keeping your mind healthy is just as important as physical exercise too. As we age, there are definite differences we notice in our mental abilities, but one thing is for sure, we do not lose our intellect. In fact, we are still able to learn even though it may take a bit longer to grasp the subject matter.
So, in order to keep our minds sharp, we can add this ‘to-do’ list to our routines to keep healthy:
- Eat a healthy diet – lots of raw vegetables, whole grains and non-fat dairy
- Stimulate the mind with crossword puzzles, reading and writing
- Learn something new you’ve never done before
- Keep physically fit which will help you improve your memory
- Play board games
- Pick up a musical instrument
- Participate in group discussions such as a book club. Face to face communication has benefits far beyond simply social satisfaction.
Don’t get too overwhelmed because participating in any activity will help promote a healthy lifestyle, which in turn, will help you maintain your independence. Independence as we age, of course, is the bottom line. Usually, if an older person loses their ability to do an activity, it’s because they’re not active, not because they’re too old. Are you ever too old to start – NO WAY! Just be sure when you do pick up a new exercise, you’re not overdoing it so as to cause unwanted pain. If you do something and you still feel good the next day, you’ll keep on doing it; no one wants to be in pain for days. Of course, please check with your doctor before you start any exercise program.
Besides keeping healthy by exercising, your mood will be elevated and stave off feelings of depression. I think you’ll enjoy your life more as you age and hopefully, look fabulous as well.
Just remember, you have to keep movin’ if you want to keep groovin’!